Project Canterbury

Discerning the Lord's Body
The Rationale of a Catholic Democracy

By Frederic Hastings Smyth, Ph.D.
Superior of the Society of the Catholic Commonwealth

Louisville, Kentucky: The Cloister Press, 1946.

Chapter XII. A Metacosmic World Order


RIGHTLY CARRIED THROUGH, with single-hearted purpose, the metacosmic process of the Memorial of Our Lord's Body and Blood does solve completely the problem which total social perfection poses for autonomous personal individuality. It is a solution which men will ever seek in vain within a fallen world. Therefore, if a fully redeemed social order ever be realized here in earth, it must be a Sacramental order, its economic and political structures functionally incorporated within the social body of the Incarnation. Such an order is the only one which can ever perfectly fulfil, without warping or perversion, both the corporate and the individually personal potentialities of man.

We are very far from the attainment of a Sacramental social order. The majority of the world is not yet even nominally converted to the Religion of the Incarnation; and the majority of nominal Christians do not understand their own religion in world-redeeming terms at all. In fact the conventional opinion of recent years has tended in the opposite direction. Religion is supposed to be a private matter. It should be "free." This means that the administration of material and political affairs must never interfere with anyone's religious theories or practices. But as a bargained price for this kind of secular non-interference, religion must in turn seek no functional interrelation with practical or material affairs. Religion is considered to be a world apart.

To suggest the necessity of a Sacramental world order is nevertheless merely to make the straightforward rational demand that human social life shall be one single ordered [176/177] whole; that life shall not be divided into three unrelated, watertight compartments, each with an independent structure labelled--as these are now respectively--the political order, the economic order and the religious order. In a functionally redeemed society man will not live in three theoretically separate insulated worlds at one and the same time. He must live in one world, everyone of whose elements will be rationally integrated and functionally interrelated. For reasons of convenience we may then continue to make logical distinctions between matters which are primarily religious, or political or economic. But ultimately such distinctions can have no constitutional or structural basis.


During the middle ages the Christian western world saw at least dimly a vision of this kind of integrally unified order. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that men saw that it was somehow required by the Religion of the Incarnation, rather than to affirm that they came to a clear understanding of what such a world order would be like. For in their attempt to realize this kind of social unity they failed miserably. The medieval attempt at a social synthesis came in the end to little more than a claim that all the affairs of men ought to be subject, completely and without further appeal, to the despotic and absolute authority of the Roman Pontiff. [Contemporary Roman claims, logically analyzed, come to much this same theory.]

The reasons for this medieval failure are numerous and complicated in their ramifications. We can perhaps distinguish two primary ones. First of all, the Catholic Church of that time was not teaching Christianity as a religion of the redemption of the world any more than she is today. Paradoxically, the more fully the Church came to assert her "temporal authority," the less did she appear to understand the meaning of her own liturgical life. In particular did she fail to explain the world-redeeming work required by [177/178] an understanding of the Offertory. The late middle ages, the very time of greatest pretense to temporal power by the Church, was a time of unexampled liturgical decay. Christianity was being presented exclusively as a soul-saving affair for separate individuals. Christian morals were being conceived exclusively in terms of legalistic individual obedience to a set of rules which, if kept, would get people into heaven. Our Lord's Memorial was being viewed not as the central act of a redeeming corporate process of Meta-cosmesis involving Offertory, Consecration and Holy Communion, but as mere propitiatory sacrifice understood in a scape-goat sense, in behalf of legalistically erring individual souls. Such a religion of extricationism, as we have pointed out from the beginning of this book, is almost impossible to connect rationally with an authoritative interest in the redemption of man's organized social life within this world. Therefore, the assertion of temporal authority on the part of the Church seemed then both arbitrary and logically out of place, just as it appears in this light today to people, Protestant or "Catholic," who still think in terms of an extricationist religion. The majority of "Christian" people in the medieval world were believers in this kind of religion. They had never been taught any other Christianity. And with the absence of practically all metacosmic understanding of the Sacramental life, the Church's claim to temporal authority could not be intelligently founded upon a Sacramental functional interest in the redemption of the world. It came to be more and more the mere expression of a lust for an unredeemed worldly power on the part of ecclesiastical officers. This kind of claim to secular authority was intolerable. It was properly rejected by the world. [Unfortunately, the claims to temporal power on the part of the Roman Church at present have not changed their evil character. They are claims made not on behalf of the redemption of the world, but on behalf of the advantage of a great religious institution dealing in extrication "Christianity." These advantages are sought most frequently on terms of bargain and compromise with an unredeemed environment. Once again, such bargains issue not as contingencies within the Offertory but, since they tempt the Atonement, they remain as sins.]

[179] The second reason for the medieval failure lay in a lack of sufficient practical knowledge concerning the basic nature of the unredeemed secular world's disorders. And this absence of necessary rational knowledge would very likely have blocked the way to the attainment of a genuinely Sacramental social order, even if the medieval Church herself had understood aright the true character of her Christian task. This kind of ignorance can again today block the Christian redeeming effort, unless it yields to a much more exact practical scientific understanding of the laws governing the movements of social change than prevails in most contemporary Christian circles.

For Christians, when they have thought at all in terms of a social order integrated with the Sacramental life, seem to have considered their contemporary secular order itself as already in some sense a single unified structure. In the medieval period the secular world was conceived as primarily a political structure. And this was not only viewed as being a unified whole, but as possessing constitutionally a pattern compatible with a redeemed Christian order. Evil individuals were known to be present within it and it was admitted that these hampered its perfect working. But the structure itself, once the bad people should be eliminated or converted, seemed genuinely available for integration with the religious structure, that is, with the Church. [The medieval name given to the secular structure was: The Holy Roman Empire. This was a name for something which was never fully actualized. But it existed in men's imaginations as a kind of Platonic Idea of a genuinely perfected secular political structure embracing the whole world.]


To the work of Karl Marx we owe a practical understanding of the manner in which the secular order itself still lacks that kind of "pre-Christian" unity which must certainly be attained before we can think of integrating this into the all-embracing future unity of a Christian religious [179/180] structure. The secular order all along, whether medieval feudal or present day capitalist, has never been adequately comprehended in any merely political analysis. On the contrary, every secular order which has thus far emerged [With the exception of the socialist order of the U. S. S. R.] can be seen upon modern scientific analysis to consist of two interrelated but distinguishable structures. One of these is economic, and the other is political. That the economic structure could be thus separately analyzed apart from the political order of society probably never dawned upon the medieval mind.

In the sphere of men's economic relationships the Church has indeed always taught the necessity of human justice. She has also taught that riches or possessions beyond those necessary to maintain individuals in a style "proper to their station" ought, as a matter of moral obligation, to be distributed to the poor and underprivileged in the name of Christian charity. But the virtues of justice and charity have heretofore been required as individual virtues. They have been seen in the light of virtues which try to undo by individual action the evil effects of social injustice enthroned in the secular order after these effects have already come into being. Until recently it seems not to have occurred to men that justice and charity might be incorporated as structural principles in a new economic order. Instead, it has apparently been supposed that certain unjust accumulations of wealth and social maldistribution of the material means of human life are somehow inevitable. Individuals have therefore been enjoined to mitigate the evil effects of such injustice by equally individual decisions to reduce their accumulated fortunes in private charity. [This seems to be the practical content of the "stewardship" theory of the ownership of material wealth.] In practice, too, even this exercise of charity has often been equated to giving generously to the accumulating endowments of the organized Church. But that men, by intelligent planning, might socialize both justice and charity in a correspondingly ordered economic system, so that unjust accumulations of wealth could not come into being in the first place--so that [180/181] both superabundant individual accumulations and correspondingly mitigating individual decisions of charity could be largely eliminated at their structural roots--is a practical scientific understanding which has grown in its systematized form only since the days of Karl Marx. This understanding is a modern phenomenon.

Unfortunately it has not made much progress in the official mind of the organized Church. In her official pronouncements within the present crisis the Church seems still to cling to the notion that justice and charity must be implemented solely in individual actions. "Mitigate and compensate the evil effects of injustice" is still the Church's advice. She recoils from radical attack upon the secular structure whence the same evils inevitably and recurringly proceed. [This is a charge which is practically one hundred percent justified in the case of the Roman Church. The Anglican Church shows a somewhat more hopeful realization of the social necessities of the times. The Anglican shortcoming is instead a great lack of dogmatic clarity which results in much confusion. The Russian Orthodox Church has now learned to "get along" with the most hopeful economic order which has yet appeared among men. Whether she understands the exceptional advantages of her situation in Incarnational terms remains to be seen. So far she has given no indication of this to the outside world.]

Beyond the analytical separation of our political and economic structures the one from the other, a still further analysis or breakdown needs to be made of the economic structures themselves. For, with the notable exception of the case of the Soviet Union, every such structure which has so far appeared on the stage of human history can in its turn be analytically broken down into two subsidiary social structures. We discover that all economic structures hitherto have had their memberships subdivided within them into two other great groups or economic classes. And people fall into the one or the other of these two classes according as to whether they do or do not have a share in the ownership of the means of economic production. Those who have no share in such ownership tend, as a class, to become almost completely subject to that other class which [181/182] does enjoy such ownership. Whether as slaves, as serfs or as wage-workers the members of the non-owning economic class end up as the servants of the class which owns lands, raw materials, tools, and other means of production. In general, the possessing class in every historical period has turned out to be the real ruling class. And this holds true even when the members of the owning class, rather than come into open view as the true rulers of the world, prefer to remain in the background and to exercise their power, not directly as the economic power it really is, but through other political figures, through kings, potentates or elected representatives who are made to appear as possessing primary power, while all the time this has its real seat elsewhere.

In this manner, our own present secular bourgeois world is not only divided into political and economic structures, but the economic structure in its turn is subdivided into a ruling and a subject class whose relative power relationships derive from the fact that the ruling class at this very time has exclusive private ownership (and therefore undemocratic control) of the world's productive facilities, whether these be lands, or factories, or mines, or other sources of materials and manufactured articles necessary to human welfare.

Thus in actuality the present western secular situation is far from presenting a picture of structural unity whose social perfection is, as it is too commonly supposed, marred only by the presence of evil but potentially convertible, individuals. It presents instead in all the bourgeois nations a picture of political structures--whether relatively democratic or out and out fascist in constitution--which are divided from our capitalist economic structures. And every capitalist economic structure, wherever found, is in its turn also constitutionally divided within itself.

It is divided into classes on a basis of ownership and non-ownership respectively of certain kinds of property. Furthermore, it is divided in such wise that the respective corporate economic interests of these two classes actually [182/183] conflict with one another. And this conflict persists whether the people involved in these class relationships be good or evil in their private personal intentions. Thus, for example, if the owners of factories in our present capitalist economy make as large profits as are required for the carrying on of their businesses, this has to be, in the structural nature of the case, at the expense of the non-owning wage-workers. And if wage-workers organize and enforce a greater and more just material share for themselves than would be provided by the normal operation of the system, this damages the material welfare of the factory owners.


This kind of constitutional conflict in the economic structure of the secular order has, with the passage of time, tended in every historical case to set up great--and eventually dangerous--strains in the current economic structure. The non-owning class tends always to expand both in numbers and in organized power to the point of offering a serious threat to the power of the owning class. Therefore, in the interests of its own self-defense, the threatened ruling class either sets up a political state, or achieves complete control of one already existing, in such wise that this political state structure may serve the end of control and repression of that other growing, dispossessed economic class which now begins to threaten the ruling economic class both in its secular power and its hitherto undisputed possession of capital wealth.

This political structure of the repressive political state has often been very cleverly conceived. In the present western world, apart from the countries which have unashamedly embraced fascism, the state power usually appears to be vested in an impartial social authority constituted to preserve the rights and privileges of all citizens without regard to their economic class status. In our modern democracies a fairly universal suffrage seems to give a basic share in the genuine control of the state and its policies to all citizens without economic class distinction. [183/184] But Marx has shown--it would seem beyond reasonable dispute--that the function of the political state is basically always that of forcefully maintaining the current economic ruling class in its position of power. Even while it serves this basic purpose it may offer deceptively large opportunities for the members of the non-ruling economic class to exert moderating pressures for the amelioration of their real status. Indeed, one of the purposes of the bourgeois state is precisely to aid the economic ruling class, not by open suppression of the wage-workers' threatening class demands, but by contriving allowable and economically safe concessions to the just demands of that class and by such means giving the impression to its members that in reality they are not in a subject position, but that they have instead a wide control over their own rights and destinies through the exercise of their politically democratic privilege of voting for or against representative state officers. When, in deepening economic crisis this relatively mild and subtle method of political control is no longer adequate to the preservation of the ascendancy of the economic ruling class, the latter, in an agony of fear, abolishes its "democratic" class-police state and sets up a fascist one. The tensions between the ruling and ruled economic classes have then become so dangerous that to preserve the capitalist system of private ownership of industrial means of production, the wage-working class must be controlled by an imposed, undemocratic violence. And that is what fascism essentially is. The only alternative to this would be a radical change from a capitalist to a socialist economic order.

In the western political democracies of today the actual state of affairs, the structural economic class conflict, is kept veiled, partly through almost universal ignorance of the true nature of the political state as a police-handmaid of the economic ruling class, and partly through astute concealment of the basic truth by economic leaders who do understand the situation, but who have the propaganda facilities for keeping it hidden from the majority of the working class.


Marx himself believed that the religious structure of human life was based upon a complete illusion. He believed in the real existence of no being whatever transcending our sensible world of time and space. He therefore thought that the whole structure of man's religious beliefs and practices was an imagined and invented thing, another cleverly contrived mental anodyne for present real material miseries suffered by the subject economic class. He believed too that this structure had also been invariably appropriated by the current ruling economic class as a most useful agency--complementing the physical, forceful repressions available in emergencies through the political state--to lull rebellious tendencies among economically exploited people into somnolent subservience. On this view, religion is a psychological artifice. It corresponds to no actual reality, but when believed in by the insecure and unhappy masses of working people it can be helpful in preventing rebellion and thus forestalling the unpleasant necessity of invoking the violently repressive police power of the state. And even when such rebellion may take place from time to time, religious persuasion can soften many dangerous situations so that repressive force may be less cruel. [The Roman Pontiff (August, 1943) warned a delegation of working people against the "evils" of revolutionary action.]

In all humility Christians should admit that a great preponderance of the contemporary religious teaching upon which Marx in his day based his damning judgment did largely justify his analysis. The practical judgments of Karl Marx concerning the secular ends served by religion are even now valid in the presence of most present day conventional Church teaching throughout the world. Therefore, even while we disagree fundamentally with the Marxian judgment upon the basic nature of the Religion of the Incarnation, we can scarcely wonder at it. Neither can we blame Marxists overmuch for an intellectual mistake for which the Christian Church may, in the judgment of history, have to assume a primary responsibility.


What Marx did seek with all his mind and heart was a truly unified secular order. And in seeking this goal his intention was basically coincident with what ought to be the immediate intention of Christians. For without a prior unity achieved in the secular order there can be no further unified integration of the secular and Incarnational structures of human life. Marx and his successors have set themselves the task of eliminating the present basic material cause of the disunity and conflict in the secular world. They have set about ridding the economic structure of its property-ownership class divisions. This can be done by abolishing that democratically irresponsible right to ruling social power which now inheres in the private ownership of the material means of production. These must become the property of all citizens, instead of the property of a restricted group. When this happens, as in the Soviet Union it has happened already, economic classes disappear; for no kind of property is then privately owned in such wise as to give the owners socially irresponsible and exploiting power over any of their fellow men whatever.

A truly democratic control, a genuinely authoritative participation of all people in their corporate destinies, then invades the economic, as well as the merely political structure. The economic ruling class disappears. Thereupon the political state also begins to assume a very different character. It is no longer needed as the organ of forceful repression of a non-owning class by an owning class; for these two economic classes have themselves vanished. The political state as a social structure now tends to coalesce in a genuinely functional way with the economic structure. Certain concerns and functions formerly also associated primarily with the political state will of course still persist. Such concerns, for example, would be those of universal education, of public health, of material social security and of a proper police power for the restraint, now no longer of a whole economic class, but merely of individual social [186/187] rebels. Once economic classes based upon private ownership of economic facilities disappear, the need for the political state as a social class police force also vanishes. For this class police function has hitherto always been the primary one of the political state, in spite of assignments to it of certain additional functions and in spite of the careful concealment of the other. The social class police power of the political state has ever been the one primary thing, among all its other concerns, which has necessitated its preservation as that kind of separate structural entity which we know today.

Our kind of political state, when the economic structure is once unified by rendering it classless, will therefore begin to coalesce into a new and single social structure which will be both political and economic at one and the same time. The general environmental character of such an integrated state has been hitherto unknown, because men have never yet experienced it. But we can be sure that the political state as we know it will, as Marxists phrase it, inevitably "wither away." The economic and political structures will merge in one. [Friedrich Engels: Anti-Dühring. International Publishers, New York. (Translated by Emile Burns) p. 315.]


A Marxian corollary of the merging of the political structure into the economic, would mean in turn, not the "withering away" of the religious structure through coalescence with the others, but its complete cessation. This would be a logical consequence of the Marxian theory of the nature of religion, were it true. For according to this theory the religious structure of social life is based upon a pure superstition. It has a meaning and a use only so long as it furnishes a helpful mythological prop to that repressive police power which is exercised by an economically ruling class through its own controlled creature, the political state. When this kind of class power is no longer required and when, as a result, the political structure itself becomes one with the economic structure, then that shadowy [187/188] make-believe of religion disappears completely with the complete disappearance of the one sole need which it was invented to meet. Religion having ever been a shadow without substance, the shadow itself must dissolve in the light of an integrated social structure, which contains no class-power tensions, but is a unified, completely democratic whole. The new secular structure being thus set free from all need of the use of trickery and subterfuge, the religious structure, one of the chief pieces of apparatus serving the ends of economic class-power subterfuge, will vanish into literal nothingness.

Marxists, therefore, disregarding the religious structure of life as unreal, view the problem of the reintegration of the world as solely one of bringing together the now separated political and economic structures into a single unified entity. And in order to accomplish this, they see clearly that the economic structure itself must, by way of preparation, first have its own inner constitutional contradictions removed. The economic classes conflictingly inherent in the capitalist organization must be eliminated before any further unifying of the social structure as a whole can proceed.


Christians must gird themselves to bear witness to the fact that the Marxian view of the Religion of the Incarnation is a dangerous error. In spite of the corruptions and derelictions of the Church, both in teaching and in practice, the Christian religion rightly understood remains as always the one supreme reality. It is the one Truth which validates and gives rational meaning to every other human experience and endeavor. It shows forth and establishes that one end towards which every other good human effort, whether economic, political, aesthetic or intellectual, is but a rational means of progressive advance. Therefore, the religious structure of social life, far from being negligible, is instead actually the crowning structure which must embrace in its Incarnational organism--and thus carry into an eternal reference--man's creative accomplishments in every [188/189] other subsidiary category of his present life in time and space. When this supreme truth is disregarded, when the end of man's salvation is arbitrarily confined to a rational integration of his life exclusively within the level of this world, then an inversion is embraced which disregards man's true end in an eternal consummation of every human value. This materialist inversion exalts the perfection of life in this world from its status as a means to man's true end, into the status of an end in itself. The Christian witness must therefore remain that to disregard the integration of all human life on earth within the New World of Our Lord's humanity is in the last analysis to court disaster for all mankind.


But even as they proclaim this truth, Christians must also guard themselves against another error of their own, an error which in a certain aspect is analogous to the Marxian one. Marxists view the problem of the reintegration of human life as that of the coalescence of two primary social structures, the economic and the political. They have disregarded the third and most important structure, namely the religious one. But at any rate they have had the practical scientific understanding to see that this reintegration of the social order cannot take place until the internal class contradictions in the economic structure are eliminated. Christians too have tended to over-simplify their own problem. They have been generally lacking in the practical Marxian scientific insight. When in the past Christians have thought in terms of a genuinely Incarnational religion--rather than of a corrupt extricationist one--they too have tended to view the world as divided into only two great structures. For them, one of these has of course been the religious one. The other has gone under the vague name of the secular structure. No further analysis of this latter structure has in general been made, although, as has already been said, the Christian tendency has been to view the secular world as primarily describable in political terms.

[190] Because of this ignorant over-simplification, Christians have tended to regard the economic structure of life, if not as unreal, (as Marxists regard the religious structure) at any rate as having no separate existence and as being already included within the political structure. This mistake alone would account for the medieval failure to achieve a reintegrated social order within the world of the Incarnation. For religious leaders then went naively ahead on the assumption that their feudal social structure was sufficiently integrated in its own constitution to fit in its entirety into the Order of the Incarnation. Christians remained sublimely ignorant of the fact that they were also in the presence of an economic structure whose potential and dynamic class contradictions would inevitably prove a complete obstacle to any final integration of the whole social order, unless these contradictions were first eliminated from the constitution of the economic structure itself.

The result of this economic ignorance, and of the consequent analytical error, was that the Church attacked the wrong abuses and failed to attack the real obstacles to her goal. She tried to reform individual evil doers, failing to see that her first problem was not one of conversion of individuals, so much as that of a radical economic change. ["First" problem in a chronological--not an hierarchical--sense.] The Church finally gave up the whole problem and began compromisingly to consent to the continuing and relatively independent existence of a secular structure parallel with, and alongside of, her own religious structure. She still maintained that the religious structure of human life was somehow the more important one. But she gradually relinquished the aim of a complete reintegration of the two structures, the one within the other. In other words, in her frustration, she finally relinquished even her own high concept of the complete redemption of human life in this world within the New World of the Incarnation, and gave herself over to the business of extricationist, individual soul-saving.


It is to the high concept of the Incarnational redemption of the world as a whole that the Offertory of Our Lord's Memorial recalls Christians, whenever and wherever they fully understand their primary vocation. But in this age we can at least avoid the ignorant errors of our forefathers in the Faith. We can take advantage of the secular truths which Marxists now point out. We can see that before the secular order can be redeemed within a single Incarnational structure, it must first have its own inner constitutional contradictions eliminated. The secular structure must itself be made over into a single structural entity before it can be successfully presented as a whole within the Offertory of the Church's bread and wine. And so, within the area of scientific and revolutionary social action, both Christians and Marxists, at this moment of history, have a common immediate objective. They disagree as to the ultimate reasons for seeking this objective. Marxists consider it an end in itself. Christians seek it as a means of perfecting and enlarging the content of their Offertory. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, Christians seek thus to reduce the present necessary extent of the social application of the Atonement. But, for the immediate future, the preparatory work of St. John Baptist and the social revolutionary work of Karl Marx, seem in the providence of God to coincide. Until the members of the humanity of the Incarnation realize this latter truth, and devote both their attention and their action to it afresh, they cannot expect the full power of the metacosmic humanity of Our Lord to appear again in their midst.


To sum up, Marxists over-simplify their real problem by assuming that there are only two major structures corresponding to abiding values within man's socially organized life. These are the political and economic structures. [191/192] They correctly see that the term "secular order" does not yet stand for any single, integrated unity. They also correctly see that man's social life cannot be reintegrated into a non-self-contradictory whole unless the class economic structure of capitalism be altered into a classless socialist structure. Marxists see, furthermore, that the political class-police state as we know it will "wither away" by coalescence with the economic structure, once the inner structural contradictions of the latter are removed. The religious structure of human life will then simply vanish away. To Marxists this means the basically complete solution to the whole problem of the reintegration of human life.

Christians, on the other hand, while maintaining the supreme reality of that final end of man for which the religious structure of life stands, have over-simplified their own problem in an analogous manner. They have overlooked the obstacles of structural disorder, of constitutional economic class conflicts with which the secular order confronts them. They have also interpreted their problem of the reintegration of the secular social structure into the religious structure as if they too were in the presence of only these two major organized social entities. Christians must learn from the Marxists that their supposedly unified secular order not only has two parts to it, the political and the economic, but that its economic part itself needs at this point of history to be socialized and rendered classless. In this case, the political and economic portions of the secular environment will indeed coalesce and the secular structure will begin to present a functional unity which can then be dealt with as a whole in further Incarnational terms. Christians will then be in a position to show forth more clearly the necessity of integrating this new and genuinely unified secular structure into the Incarnational structure.

In the meantime Christians themselves must purify their own Sacramental, Incarnational nuclei. They must make their own principles rationally more clear. And they must hold their own Incarnational world in readiness for a consummation of the re-ordered environmental structure when [192/193] the proper hour arrives. The great socially reconstructive task for Christians will before long be that of making clear to Marxists, and to other humanists who seek a socialist secu-ular order, that true end to which an economically classless society must be put within the Offertory of Our Lord's Memorial.


When the Incarnational religious integration of human life is accomplished, Christians believe that the secular structure (now itself reintegrated in the Marxian sense) will coalesce with the religious structure. Just as Marxists show that the political bourgeois state and the economic structures of the human social order will mutually wither away within a complete secular integration, so Christians believe that the whole secular order--as a separate autonomous structure in its own right--may wither away within the Incarnational structure. The fulfilment of this end would in fact herald the advent of the Kingdom of God in earth.

Christians have traditionally used another expression for that disappearance of our now relatively autonomous and separated social structures within a single new and integrated Incarnational whole. What Marxists call a withering away, Christians call an "establishment" of the secular structure within the religious. Thus the envisioned unification of the religious and secular orders was anciently referred to as the Establishment of the Church.

It ought to be clearly evident that this word "establishment" as here defined refers to something very different from what the term has come to mean today. When, for example, we now refer to an Established Church of England, to an Established Church in fascist Spain, we mean that a particular religious organization existing alongside of the still separated secular structure, is guaranteed a certain exclusive position and power by the political state. Such an Established Church does not even have to claim the believing allegiance of the majority of the citizens of the [193/194] state! But the state guarantees certain possessions, certain buildings and endowments to the Church's exclusive use. And the state gives to the Church a more or less exclusive entree into the fields of education and care of youth. It also calls in the Church officially to grace and to bless its own secular observances and public occasions.

Under such conditions the Church does indeed become openly the handmaid of the state, and as a kind of bargained exchange for her privileges, she lends herself to the state with special attention to its needs for controlling and mollifying its economically oppressed class of working citizens. And, by the same token she is therefore the combined servant and chaplain of the economic ruling class, which controls the political state. But all this is very far from what the idea of religious establishment originally conveyed. Originally it meant that a truly integrated union of the religious and the secular structures was to be attained. This union presupposed, of course, that practically all citizens of the state were converted Sacramental Christians. It presupposed that the central objective of all men in every occasion of their lives was that of ordering the secular structure of this world in such wise that it might be properly presented regularly at the Altar of Our Lord's Memorial under forms of natural bread and wine. It presupposed a meta-cosmic humanity co-terminous with the secular structure. Under such conditions, the political and economic structures of life would tend to become solely the institutional organizations of the Christian laity taking counsel and working together to produce an Offertory of bread and wine of the best obtainable quality. Parliaments, councils of state and economic organizations would then be simply assemblies of faithful laity in their periods of giving primary attention to the productive ordering of the social material sources of the Offertory. This is the true meaning of the Establishment of the Church in the secular world. Its achievement would indeed mean the merging of the secular structure with the Sacramental structure. It would mean indeed the withering away of a separately constituted political state, as well as of a separately existing economic [194/195] organization. Whether this kind of fully redeemed world can ever be achieved or not, can scarcely be predicted. Humanly speaking it seems remote. We are certainly very far from that situation. However, it would seem that Christians ought to work upon the assumption based in faith in Our Lord, that its attainment is a genuine possibility. For Our Lord has said: I if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me. [See Appendix VII, page 213.]


In any event, this kind of total social integration cannot be accomplished until the secular structure itself is given its necessary preliminary integral unity in its own right, a unity which shall make possible its further integration with the Sacramental life. At the present time, with the exception of the Soviet Russian achievement, all the economic systems we now know are still under the strains and disorders of economic class conflicts. The bourgeois political states are still the instruments of economic class repression. Before we can think of the "establishment" of the Sacramental structure, there is another "establishment" or "withering away" which needs to be accomplished first. The political and economic structures of life are still mutually disestablished. These must be made to merge in one. And this kind of mutual secular reestablishment can now be effected only on a basis of a socialized economic structure, upon a basis of the disappearance of economic classes based respectively on the ownership and non-ownership of certain kinds of property. The secular establishment must wait upon the disappearance of the political police-state power which economic class divisions now require. When this has happened, the Sacramental structure of life as set forth by the Church will have a new opportunity to show that the whole social order of human life can find its fully integrated, its organically metacosmic consummation, at the Altar of Our Lord.

This seems to be the possibility confronting the Russian [195/196] Church today. Let us pray that she understands her redeeming mission in such completely Incarnational and Sacramental terms that she is able shortly to take full advantage of this unmatched historical opportunity.

But for the rest of us who still remain in a capitalist and economically class-structured world, it would seem that our primary practical emphasis ought to be on the reinte-gration of our secular environment. For the sake of the Christian Offertory secular socialism must be universally achieved. The bourgeois political police-states must wither away within the economic structures thus reintegrated. Only after this is accomplished can man's life find its final integration, as the ordered world in its every aspect may be fitly brought within the redeeming metaeosmic action of the Memorial of Our Lord's Body and Blood.

Adoremus in Aeternum Sanctissimum Sacramentum

Project Canterbury